An (almost) zero carbon solution for Chile

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The effects of fossil fuel emissions are especially visible in Chile, as anyone who has gazed over smoggy capital Santiago can attest. But the combustion byproduct posing the greatest climate change threat is invisible: carbon dioxide.

To help slow the rise in heat-trapping CO2, President Michelle Bachelet's sweeping tax reforms included South America's first ever CO2 tax, which places a US$5/t penalty on emissions by thermo plants with capacities of 50MW or greater.

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Tomás Miklos, a chemical engineer from Mexico whose résumé includes positions at Dow Chemical and Monsanto, may have a solution to further reduce emissions and ease the financial burden for thermo plants and other large-scale CO2 producers.

Miklos gave reporters in Santiago a demonstration of his patented ZeroCarbon system, which absorbs CO2 and transforms it to carbonates, high-demand primary materials with various industrial applications.

Chile's state development agency Corfo covered 79% of the 185mn-peso (US$311,187) cost for the prototype, which captures nearly 100% of CO2 emitted from a gasoline-powered generator and converts it to sodium carbonate, which is used to produce glass, detergent and ceramics, and also in water treatment facilities.

Orange Investments covered the rest of the cost.

Miklos' system can also convert CO2 to calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate and lithium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is used in the paper, ceramics, textile and construction industries.

Magnesium carbonate is used primarily as a flame retardant, while lithium carbonate is found in products like cell phone batteries and electric cars.

The system can be used by carbon emitters in industry, agriculture and transport.

"Right now, the design is made for industry," Miklos said, "meaning the cement industry, the coal industry, oil and gas and thermoelectric plants."

Although Chile has become a regional leader in renewable energy, the majority of its power still comes from thermoelectricity.

Miklos said the technology is ready to be installed in thermo plants, and that the only step left is securing partners.

BNamericas will host its 11th Southern Cone Energy Summit in Lima, Peru, on November 12-13. Click here to download the agenda.